Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beef-Less Comfort Casserole

I had a hard time coming up with a well-rounded dinner tonight. The only protein around is our fake meat selection, and I wanted to use up some green beans and zucchini from the fridge. The only logical solution seemed like a stir-fry, but my husband doesn't care for stir-fry. Or zucchini. However, there is one dish my mom makes that my husband actually likes with zucchini. She buries in in cream of mushroom soup, some other ingredients I'm not sure I remember, and covers it with something crunchy. There's so much going on that he hardly notices he's eating zucchini. So I just decided to throw all the ingredients I had into a giant casserole. The result was a big creamy casserole of comfort food, which was not bad at all.

Beef-Less Comfort Casserole
1 can condensed Cream of Celery soup
2 Tbsp water
2 C green beans
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 package Trader Joe's Beef-less Strips
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp fat free sour cream
1/2C + fried onion pieces
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder

Trim beans into 2" lengths (I snap the ends of and snap each bean in half). Cover with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile slice the zucchini, add to another saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Boil both about 5 minutes until almost cooked but not completely. Drain.

In a casserole dish, combine the condensed soup, 2T water, sour cream and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the drained vegetables and beef strips. Sprinkle a few fried onions, season with salt and pepper and stir together. Top with a light sprinkle of garlic powder, then cheese and fried onions. Bake at 400 20 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's only Christmas Eve, and I'm practically ready to give up food. For the first time, I'm looking forward to NOT eating. I need a deep cleanse. Last Friday it started with a pot-luck lunch at work. Sunday: drunk brunch. Monday was our work party, and although I'm not a fan of their dinner spread and ate mostly crudite, I did get in a good shot of Patron. That set the night on fire and I set out to the bar with co-workers, and continued at yet another bar. Tuesday was team lunch at Carmines, where the food and wine put us all in a coma for the rest of the day. Top that with drinks and dinner with a visiting friend (yeah, Houston's - STEAK). I forgot the leftover steak in my purse overnight, and threw it out - what a blessing in disguise. By Wednesday I felt about 3 inches fatter and very very tired. So needless to say, there will be no photo with this post, as the very last thing I want to think about is food, drink, parties, or entertaining. Don't tell that to the 9 family members I'll be feeding a giant lasagna to tonight! And that's not even the end...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet Red Onion & Black Bean Enchiladas

Finished Enchiladas

Naked enchiladas

I'm a little behind on the posting - I haven't wanted to spend much time in the kitchen this week. Thursday was absolutely freezing cold outside, so instead of going to the gym after work and having to make the longer walk home, I headed straight home to cook something hot. I had to make a fruit salad for our work potluck on Friday, so I figured I may as well do that while enchiladas baked in the oven. The salad of fresh pineapple, kiwi, red grapes and starkrimson pears came out awesome and was a huge hit with my fruit-loving coworkers. I hardly put any effort into the enchiladas (and just threw a sauce together with half the ingredients I usually do), and those came out awesome too. Quantities don't really matter, but a can of black beans will give you about 3-8" tortillas full of enchilada filling.

Sweet Red Onion & Black Bean Enchiladas

Vegetable or Canola oil
1 Can Goya Black Beans, rinsed and drained

2 small cloves Garlic
1/2C Red Onion, diced

2 plum tomatoes, diced

Adobe seasoning, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, dried oregano to taste

Shredded Sharp Cheddar
8" Flour Tortillas

Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Fat Free Sour Cream (for serving)


Simplified Enchilada Sauce

3T Vegetable Oil

1/2 tsp Arrowroot powder
1 Large Tbsp Chili powder (or more to taste)

1 small can of (no salt added) Tomato Sauce

Cayenne pepper (pinch)
Salt, black pepper (pinch)

Hot Sauce (Frank's Redhot) to taste


Saute onions in oil about 3 minutes. Add garlic, saute 2 more minutes. Add black beans and tomatoes and cook until tomato breaks down. Season to taste. Remove from heat and mix in a couple tablespoons of cilantro.


Meanwhile prepare the sauce in a small saucepan. Heat oil over low-med heat and add arrowroot, chili powder and cayenne and stir to dissolve. Add tomato sauce and season to taste.


Lay tortillas on a plate and heat slightly in the microwave to soften them (about 10 seconds). Covering with a damp paper towel helps them not to dry out. Divide bean mixture onto center line of each tortilla and top with some cheese. Fold 2 sides in and secure with a toothpick. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Top all the naked enchiladas with sauce and cheese. Less sauce will give a crispier tortilla, less cheese will give a more crunchy cheese topping. More sauce or cheese can be used to taste, depending on if you like your enchiladas saucy or dry. I'm leaning toward drier and crispier these days - you can always add more sauce while serving.

Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes until cheese is browned. Serve topped with more sauce if desired, hot sauce, a dollop of fat-free sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Thursday morning view - even looks cold outside, all the smokestacks going full-force

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leftover Meatballs with Egg Noodles and Sundried Tomatoes



I am getting very sick of leftovers already. I pawned a container of cookies off on my coworkers (inadvertently eating many myself since they were on my desk). Yesterday I had meatballs with the stroganoff for lunch, followed by a snack of sausage, olives and gratin. For dinner: toasted slices of baguette with sliced tomatoes and basil. Today I came home to snack on more sausage, olives and cole slaw. I'm even having a cocktail from leftover party drinks - Chambord & 7Up. But for dinner I decided to give the meatballs and noodles a re-mix, and it came out pretty good. Adding the new flavor from the tomatoes, and the fresh herbs made it taste fresh. I froze most of the baguettes, but there's still a bit left out so I sliced it and made parmesan toasts under the broiler. Toast is the best. Tomorrow I'm thinking brunch for dinner using eggs, sausage, toasts and re-roasted potatoes.

Leftover Meatballs with Egg Noodles and Sundried Tomatoes
cooked chicken meatballs (leftover)
cooked egg noodles (leftover)
olives (leftover)
sundried tomatoes
minced garlic
olive oil
toasted pine nuts
chopped parsley, thyme and basil
salt & pepper
grated parmesan

Saute garlic in olive oil over low-medium heat, a few minutes. Add tomatoes and meatballs, saute a few minutes until heated through and add olives, herbs, nuts salt & pepper. Toss in the egg noodles and stir to coat until heated through. Drizzle with some olive oil if they are too dry. Serve with grated parmesan or red pepper flakes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Laid Plans for a Holiday Foodfest

I spent most of my free time this past week coming up with a menu for last night's party. Each year, my friends and I get together to celebrate the holidays. This year I hosted. I started with about 12 people on the guest list. Which quickly turned into 20, somehow. What was to be a big sit down dinner would now have to be reconfigured into something bigger and easier. There is a lot of planning that needs to go into this sort of thing.

With menu decided, I placed a big grocery order to arrive Friday afternoon. I came home and got to work organizing the fridge and making a plan. I felt like there wasn't quite enough, with the guest list still growing, so I ordered a few more things for Saturday morning. It was hard to get a handle on how much food I would need and how to make it all happen. So, I made one of my famous excel charts to plan my time and resources. I have a limited amount of cooking and serving pieces, I mean, we have a bigger apartment now, but it is still NYC. I laid out all the pans and bowls and post-it noted them with the dish they would be needed for. I tend to get confused and flustered when I'm juggling guests and drinks and cooking, so I felt the extra organization would help guide me as things got crazy.

Excel chart plan

As usual, I fell behind on Saturday's cooking schedule right away. The meatballs were pretty moist, and I planned to bake them in bulk, so I browned them in batches before adding them to the giant roasting pan. By the time the first guests arrived, I was only slightly behind schedule, and they were all willing to pitch in. I consulted my friend Todd on the dressing for the heart-of-palm salad and he went to work on it. My friend Mary Laura is always a lifesaver at parties and pitched right in seasoning potatoes and slicing sausages. Kristen topped and managed the baking of the pizzettes. Others drained olives, and plated cheese and jam (I gave up the idea of baking it) while my husband sliced a baguette. My sister-in-laws came with hot samosas and pies.

The plan was put on pause around 8:30, since most of the guests had not arrived. I'm not real sure what happened over the next 2 hours, except that the food took 4x as long as I planned to cook in the oven, but somehow we ended up eating around midnight. I ended up feeding a rather drunken crew of about 25 people who all seemed quite satisfied with the food and not at all bothered by the late hour (maybe that's because they were so busy doing shots of tequila). Food coma sent most of them home before the huge dessert buffet. We were worried we wouldn't have enough food, but we ended up with tons of leftovers and lots of desserts. The clear winners were the puff pastry pizzettes, chicken meatballs and my friend Ryan's Indian Infused Potato Latkes with yogurt sauce. Here is the entire menu:

Assorted olives
Manchego with Fig Preserves
Puff Pastry Pizzettes
Samosas
Crusty bread with Olive Oil

Chicken Meatballs
Beef-less Stroganoff (entirely cooked in crockpot)
Egg Noodles
Hearts-of-Palm salad
Roasted Carrots (I gave up on the sauce)
Roasted Potatoes
Apple Craisin Cole-Slaw
Chicken Apple & Chicken Mango sausages
Indian Infused Potato Latkes (brought by guest)

Desserts - brought by guests:
Oreo cookie pie
Peanut butter cheesecake pie
Berry Pavlova
Gingerbread cookies
Homemade Pizzelle cookies
Kiss thumbprint cookies
Peanut butter cup thumprint cookies
Baklava
Hot Apple crisp

food layover area

chicken apple and chicken mango sausages

Indian infused Latkes

Egg Noodles

Apple Craisin Slaw

Tomato Zucchini Gratin

Roast Carrots

Chicken Meatballs

Samosas

Olives

Puff Pastry Pizzette slice

Manchego and Fig Preserves

Baguette


Heart of Palm Salad

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick Acorn Squash Soup & Starkrimson Pear Salad



Healthy Monday. Worked Late. Tired. Gym. Gym hard. Tired. Made salad. Salad good. Made Soup. Soup gooooood. Tired.

Starkrimson Pears with Baby Romaine and Sesame Cashews
Baby Romaine Salad
Starkrimson Pear, sliced
Trader Joe’s Sesame Cashews, toasted

Altered Store-bought dressing
Mix together:
3T Drew’s Poppyseed Dressing
1T Walnut Oil
½ tsp Cider Vinegar
½ tsp Country Dijon Mustard
½ tsp Maple syrup

Quick & Healthy Acorn Squash Soup
½ C red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled & trim ends off (leave whole)
1 medium Acorn squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1” cubes
2 C Water
Olive Oil
Butter or Margarine
Fresh thyme (optional)
Salt & Pepper
½ tsp sugar

In a medium saucepan, saute onions and garlic in oil & butter for about 3 minutes. Add squash and water and bring to a boil. Stir in about ¼ tsp salt and several grinds of pepper. Place a few sprigs of thyme on top and continue to boil 10-15 minutes until squash breaks apart easily. Remove thyme. Cool a few minutes and transfer to blender and puree. Add back to pan and season with salt & pepper.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cornmeal Pizza Crust



I'm still trying to get my cooking mojo back. Desperately I search for it each day, in a race against time, to recover my skills to full power before next weekend's holiday dinner party. Saturday morning I attempted to make hash brown potatoes. I even turned the food processor into a shredder to get evenly shredded potatoes (and no shredded fingers). They sure did turn brown. Crispy on the outside. Mushy and brown on the inside. I swear I've made excellent hash browns before - but not this day.

Later in the afternoon, I forged ahead. I gave myself a challenge that I've been avoiding. I thought, if I can succeed at this, I'll regain some kitchen confidence and hopefully pull out of the food funk. I've never been able to make a good pizza dough from scratch. Because, as I always say, I'm no baker - I'm a cook. Baking is science, and cooking is just knowing which flavors work together. Foodnetwork.com is my go-to source for recipes that work, so I decided to try Bobby Flay's pizza dough recipe. Success #1: my yeast grew and doubled, despite being slightly expired. Success #2: the dough doubled in size while rising - yay! Success #3: my sauce turned out great, although it started out too watery and I had to boil it down for a while. Overall, the pizza turned out well. It wasn't as doughy and light as I might prefer, rather bread-y, but no major complaints. I over-salted a bit, but we can live with that too. I'm hoping this is a sign that this week my luck will change, in time to cook for 12+ people on Saturday.

Cornmeal Pizza Crust (Foodnetwork.com)
(Recipe is for 4 small thin-crust pizzas, but I made 1 12" pizza)

Sweet Garlic Pizza Sauce
(enough for 2 large pizzas)
1 28oz can peeled Italian Tomatoes (Whole) in sauce
¼ C tomato paste
1 clove garlic
½ tsp sugar
Salt
Pepper
Dried Oregano

Add entire can of tomatoes and sauce and about ¼ C tomato paste to blender with garlic clove. Puree just a few seconds to blend in the garlic. Pour in saucepan and boil over medium heat (loosely covered) until sauce reduces and thickens – about 20 minutes. Add sugar, salt, pepper and oregano to taste.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Where did my skills go?


This week my cooking skills are MIA. I couldn't even pull off a successful salad this week. No disasters, but no winners either. Tonight I was going to make the coconut curry, but decided it would take too long to make jasmine rice. So I made white beans and spinach, but the spices I wrote down in my recipe months ago didn't really working for me this time. Better luck next time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salmon with Mango & Lemon Sauce


It's been a week since I've posted or cooked anything - I've been busy traveling, working and getting back into the gym routine. I always have grand ideas for dinners, but hitting the gym is a priority this week. The holidays are already packing on the pounds faster than I can run them off! When I get home there's not much time between hungry and starving to chef something up. Today, I planned to roast some vegetables and potatoes to go with a salsa-topped salmon, but when I got home I wanted dinner fast. I threw together a green salad, poached the salmon and made a quick sauce. I had dinner within 20 minutes of starting it, and that includes overcooking the fish a bit. But you can never go wrong with a mayo-based sauce for salmon, it can really compensate for alot.

Salmon with Mango & Lemon Sauce
(1 serving)
1 4-6oz fillet of Salmon (Wild Salmon is best for lower mercury - I never buy farmed)
Water
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Lemon rinds (leftover from sauce)

Sauce:
1-1/2 Tbsp Light Mayonaise
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or juice from about 1/4 small lemon) - reserve squeezed rinds for poaching liquid
Salt & Pepper

Topping:
1/4 C diced mango

Chopped Cilantro
Crushed red pepper flakes

Boil a small amount of water in a skillet with a lid. Add the salt, peppercorns, sugar and lemon rinds. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place carefully into the water (the water should come half-way up on the salmon). Poach for about 7-10 minutes depending on thickness of the fillet. When it flakes when prodded with a fork, it's done.

For the sauce, mix together mayo and lemon juice until smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Top the salmon with the sauce, add diced mango and cilantro. Sprinkle a little crushed red pepper to taste.






Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Cider Purple Cabbage

Apple Cider Purple Cabbage (shown with Grilled Chicken Bratwurst & Roasted Dill Potatoes)

It's a little hard to experiment with side dishes when your fridge is bare. We'll be in Vermont for the holiday, so we're letting the supplies dwindle. We have leftovers for tonight, going our separate ways for dinners out tomorrow, Wednesday we'll eat with the in-laws, and Thursday we go. Meanwhile, here is a recipe requested often by my friends. Unfortunately, I've only recently begun to write down my recipes. So I'll never be able to recreate the holiday party version they long for, but this was an attempt that was close.


Apple Cider Purple Cabbage
2 T Veg oil

1 tsp of Mustard seeds

½ head of red cabbage, sliced into strips

1/4 tsp of paprika

1/4 tsp of coriander

salt

pepper
1/2C apple cider

2-3 T white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar


Heat veg oil in big stock pot. Add Cabbage and spices, sauté for a few minutes. Add cider and vinegar. Season to taste. Simmer for 30min to 1 hr to desired tenderness. Garnish with some chives or dill.


*I would also suggest tossing in some apple chunks or raisins to enhance the sweetness of the cider.

*I only used 1/2 head of cabbage here, since an entire head can feed about 12 people. Even with half a head, I remember having way more leftovers than a single girl could handle.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Side Dish Revived: Baby Brussels Sprouts with Herbs


The season of gluttony has arrived. It is the season of food-centric holidays. First we have Thanksgiving, then various holiday parties, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Soon after - the Superbowl. Each year my recipe database grows, I explore new ingredients and flavors, and I find my tastes and style evolving. However, the holidays are a time to pull out the old favorites, and traditional flavors. In the spirit of pre-Thanksgiving preparation, I'm going to try and revisit a few neglected recipes in my file (or from memory). I haven't made Brussels sprouts in a few years. Since then I have made a habit of keeping fresh herbs instead of dried, and they make a big difference.

Baby Brussels Sprouts with Herbs
1 pint Baby Brussels Sprouts – steamed or boiled
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper

Steam Brussels sprouts in a bamboo steamer about 10-15 minutes, until tender. Leave whole or cut in half to absorb more flavors. Add oil and butter to skillet, and sauté garlic for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and herbs and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add a little salt & pepper to taste. Add lemon juice to de-glaze, and toss everything together in pan. Serve garnished with lemon and fresh herbs on the side.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mango Soyrizo Enchiladas



Welcome back, husband. Welcome back,good camera. Welcome back, fake meat! Tonight the jet-lagged business traveler passed out on the couch, and I made enchiladas. Instead of salsa, today I made fresh guacamole. I also added some mangoes to give sweetness to the spice and salt of the soyrizo. They came out great - as anything with golden crispy melted cheese would.

Mango Soyrizo Enchiladas
(4 very full 8” enchiladas – can be stretched to 6)
Filling:

1 T vegetable oil
½ small yellow onion, diced
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
Soy Chorizo, removed from casing (1/2 package)
1 can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning
1/8 tsp Cumin
1/8 tsp Oregano Salt / Pepper / Red Pepper Flakes to taste
¼ C water (or stock)
1 Tbsp Sour Cream
½ Mango, diced
¼ C fresh Cilantro, chopped
¼ C Shredded Sharp White Cheddar
1 C Wisconsin Cheddar (Yellow)

Enchilada Sauce:
3T Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Arrow Root (or 1 Tbsp Flour)
1 Large Tbsp Chili powder
1 small can of (no salt added) Tomato Sauce
1/8 tsp (+more to taste) each: Cayenne pepper,Cumin, Oregano
Season to taste with: Red Pepper Flakes, Salt, Chili Pepper Hot Sauce

Saute onions in oil 3 minutes. Add garlic for 1 minute. Add Soyrizo and black beans. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, adobo, cumin and red pepper. Add water and simmer about 10-15 minutes until water is reduced. Check seasoning and add mango and cilantro. Remove from heat and add sour cream. Sprinkle a little (about 2 Tbsp) white cheddar down the center of each tortilla, top with filling, and sprinkle another small amount (2 Tbsp) of yellow cheddar. Fold closed, place in pan and seal with a toothpick. Cover with enchilada sauce and yellow cheddar. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Serve garnished with cilantro, guacamole and sour cream.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Persimmon & Grapefruit Salad with Poached Salmon


Food presentation is not my strength, but this dinner was outstanding! It was probably the fastest (20 minutes start to finish) and healthiest thing I have made in a while. The salad recipe came straight from Fresh Direct: INDIAN SUMMER SALAD from "Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook" by Nicole Routhier. I have never before used walnut oil, but it made an excellent salad dressing. I skipped the garlic, and the only thing I would add next time would be some toasted walnuts for crunch. The Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillet was also perfect, with just a little salt, pepper, and some dressing drizzled over.

INDIAN SUMMER SALAD -*no longer available on Fresh Direct, please email libralovesblog@gmail.com for recipe.

POACHED SALMON
Add 1/2" of water in a wide skillet with a cover. Add 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt, a few peppercorns and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a boil and carefully slide in the salmon fillet skin-side down. Cover and poach about 10 minutes until the flesh starts to separate, and pulls apart easily with a fork. Lift out with a spatula, and season with salt & pepper.

Non-committal Decorating

After brunch today, I decided to go clothes shopping on Broadway in Soho. I have been meaning to get to Topshop since it opened, months ago. However, my tastes have changed since my last visit 8 years ago in London. I only spent about 10 minutes exploring before I walked out. I have no patience for this kind of store, and no interest in wasting money on fast-fashion. As usual, the clean restroom in Crate and Barrel beckoned, and I became sidetracked ogling almost everything in there. I liked so many things, in fact, that I grabbed a catalog and started circling and list-making. Oh yes, a public display of my anal tendencies! I left the store very inspired to revive the guest bedroom decoration project. Inspiration turned into obsession, as usual, and I came home to research online to decide how to pull it all together.

As a Libra, I like many many things, and I find it hard to commit to a look. I can make decisions based on other's needs, but my own fickle desires are hard to nail down. I compiled my research and opened all my reference photos in Photoshop, where I set up layers of possibilities. Layer 1 represents my blank canvas: a photo of the room as it is now. Layer 2 is the bedding I fell in love with enough to call customer service for stock availability when I couldn't find it online (oh, it does exist, you just have to ask a few times). Subsequent layers consist of a home-made padded headboard and accessory possibilities to tie the color scheme together. The reason I added the picture rail and headboard is because the painting is looking a bit to high over the bed. But regardless of height, it is floating in space, so I feel the need to tie it down with other elements. I need to sit with this for a bit, but I feel about ready to commit to the bedding before it completely sells out for good, as my friendly Crate & Barrel rep suggested it was in very high demand.


my blank canvas: pale yellow room with ivory and white accents


Non-committal photoshop file of possibilites... wondering if the colors are too primary, but happy with how they bring out the painting's colors, and make use of cheap Pier 1 lamps. Roughly $325 without the headboard.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Maple Pureed Yams & Apples, Cheesy Cheddar Cauliflower and Chicken Apple Sausage

This morning I discovered the joy of sauteing vegetarian Italian sausage slices. I was convinced they tasted almost like the real thing. But maybe, just maybe, I've been denying myself the pleasure of real sausage for far too long. With only myself to feed this week, I had ordered some Aidell's Chicken Apple Sausage from Fresh Direct. It was a compromise of sorts, since I didn't want to go all the way with the pork variety in my first relapse of sausage gluttony. They were absolutely heavenly grilled with a bit of olive oil. I'm not sure the apples were even necessary with the wonderful salty sausage flavor and the crispy pop of the casing. My husband often asks me to describe what meat tastes like, but it's so hard to describe the faint fatty flavors and the texture when you bite into it. Alongside the pre-made sausages, for which I can take no credit for, I experimented with some sides that may be worthy of a Turkey-Day appearance. I steamed the cheddar cauliflower to balance the calories in the cheese sauce I was topping it with. God forbid I consume 700 calories and add unnecessary oil for cooking. Steaming is the most respectful way to cook, for both the vegetable, and your body - remember 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or even margarine) equals about 100 calories. I was tempted to roast or grill the sweet potato and apple, but I figured it was easier and healthier to boil. This was truly a 3 burner meal, no oven required, and was complete in about 30 minutes.


Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
(2 servings)
1/2 head cauliflower
1 T unsalted butter
1/8 tsp arrowroot
6 T heavy cream
½ C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp paprika
4 grinds black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
(plus salt & pepper to taste)

Separate the cauliflower into florets and steam in a bamboo steamer about 15 minutes, until tender. Set bamboo basket aside and use the saucepan to make the sauce. Add butter and arrowroot to the hot pan over low heat. Arrowroot dissolves easier & smoother than flour, but 1 Tbsp all purpose flour can be substituted. Add balance of ingredients and continue to stir over low heat until creamy. Drizzle over cauliflower and sprinkle with paprika. Salt & pepper to taste at the table.

Maple Pureed Yams and Apples
2-3 servings
2 medium yams, peeled and cubed
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Add the apples and boil 5 more minutes. Drain and transfer to food processor. Add a little salt and pepper, turn the processor on, and add the maple, sugar and butter through the feeder. Blend until smooth. Serve garnished with a little dried parsley or fresh grated nutmeg.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pizza with Yellow Tomato Sauce


Please don't tell anyone I ate a whole pizza tonight. Really, it's pathetic, I have no self-control when left to my own devices. But it was just so delicious. I had thawed out a ball of dough from Fresh Direct, and I made a fresh sauce from a big ripe yellow tomato. I know it doesn't look yellow after adding tomato paste, but it has a much lighter sweet flavor than red. When I make pizza, I focus on layering flavors. A pizza should not just be sauce and cheese. Sometimes your cheese comes off in the first bite. Sometimes there's a bald spot with no sauce. Sometimes everything just comes together in perfect harmony in that bite from the tip of the slice. So pizza is all about making sure every bite is amazing. That is why it is important to add flavor and seasoning every step of the way - about 4 times. First, in making the sauce, make sure there is enough salt, maybe even some sugar for sweetness, and pepper for a hint of spice. I think of the crust as a garlic bread - something I would be happy eating even without topping. Then I add herbs over the sauce, and again on top of the cheese.

Lately, I am experimenting with sauce. I have realized over time, that you don't need to cook down a sauce for a long time when making it from scratch. I'm really getting into throwing raw ingredients into a blender as a sauce, and just cooking it enough to get the water out. It actually makes a much fresher, cleaner flavor. Most importantly, it is much lower in sodium when you control what goes into it. Again, please forgive the awful photo, our camera is currently en route from Frankfurt to Bangkok.

Pizza with Yellow Tomato Sauce
(for 1 small 10” pizza)
Sauce:
1 Large Yellow Tomato
1 small garlic clove
1 Tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt (Kosher)
4 grinds of black pepper

Pie:
Pizza dough for 1 10-12” pizza, stretched thin
Cornmeal
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt (Kosher)
Garlic Powder
Dried Oregano, Basil & Parsley
Thin sliced rings from a small yellow onion
Shredded Mozzarella
Grated Parmesan cheese

Remove stem area from tomato, cut into large chunks. Add this, and all the sauce ingredients to a blender and chop until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Heat oven to 450. Stretch the crust carefully and coat the bottom side with cornmeal. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with some kosher salt and garlic powder. Pre-bake the crust until it starts to turn golden and bubble.

Top crust with dollops of sauce and season with basil and oregano. Distribute the onion rings evenly and top with cheeses and parsley flakes. Bake again for about 10 minutes or until cheese and crust turns brown and crispy.





Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup & Lemon Basil Cauliflower Gratin



I'm sad to see this weekend end. Friday I saw my husband off on his business trip, and looked forward to my personal training appointment. My trainer cancelled, which killed my motivation to workout, and sent me on a comfort-food indulgence rampage. Unfortunately, my BBQ delivery was less than spectacular, and left me wishing that I had taken the time to cook something much better. But, it was all uphill from there. A friend made dinner for me on Saturday, and then I re-connected with lots of old friends at various birthday parties. I even talked to new people. I feel like maybe I haven't really participated in the world outside for a while. Sunday I continued my love-affair with society, and had brunch and went shopping with the girls. After the sessions of relationship talk and some retail-therapy, I came home to create the two dishes inspired by yesterday's greenmarket excursion.

The tomato soup was delicious. I usually keep vine tomatoes on hand, but these local New Jersey beefsteak and yellow tomatoes were juicy, perfectly ripe and sharply sweet. The grape tomatoes were quite sweet, as well. I'm not sure this soup would be as nice with a lesser quality tomato. The cream added at the end brings out the sweet and salty flavors - but I add it mostly to convince myself that I'm not just eating tomato sauce. The cheddar cauliflower is a little milder than the white, and it made a very nice roasted gratin. I served it all alongside simple salt and pepper sauteed lamb loin chops - but my meat-cooking skills are a little rusty, so the veggies were definitely the best part.

Roasted Tomato Soup
(about 5-6 Cups)
1 large Yellow Tomato
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 medium to large Beefsteak tomatoes
2 small yellow onions
4 small garlic cloves smashed
2C water
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste if needed
20 grinds black pepper
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Heavy Cream, to taste

Quarter the large tomatoes. Quarter and separate layers of the onions. Toss tomatoes, onions and garlic with olive oil and salt and roast 30 minutes at 450 in a glass baking dish. When browned and soft, empty all contents and juices from the dish into a stock pot.

Add water, sugar, salt, pepper and butter. Boil 20-25 minutes. Transfer to blender in batches. Loosely hold the center of the top with a towel and puree until smooth. Add back to the pot and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with about 1 Tbsp heavy cream drizzled into each 1 Cup of soup. (At first I added too much cream to my bowl - so add just a little at a time, you can always add more).


Lemon-Basil Cauliflower Gratin
(4 servings)
1 medium head of Cauliflower
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Lemon Juice from 1 lemon
Nutmeg – few grates of fresh through microplane over the pan
Salt
Pepper – a few grinds
2 Tbsp fresh chopped Basil
2 Tbsp Breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp Shredded Mozzarella

Boil Cauliflower about 5 mintues and drain. In a large shallow glass baking dish, toss w/ oil, lemon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and half the basil. Top sparingly with breadcrumbs and cheese. Roast until browned (about 30 minutes at 450). Garnish with basil chiffonade.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's Greenmarket Finds: Eucalyptus, Cheddar Cauliflower and Tomatoes

This morning's episode of Tyler's Ultimate inspired me to go over to the farmer's market and find some tomatoes to roast. He made this delicious-looking and easy soup by roasting several kinds of tomatoes and onions. So I headed out to gather as many types of tomatoes as I could find. Today all I could find were yellow, beefsteak and grape tomatoes, so that will have to do. I also found an appealing table of unusual varieties of cauliflower. Some looked like green spiky alien pods, others were a pretty purple like cabbage heads, and then these orange "cheddar cauliflowers" stood out. How could a cheese addict resist a vegetable named "cheddar"? I assume it won't taste like cheddar on it's own, but I plan to make a cheesy gratin out of it. I also found bunches of fresh-cut eucalyptus at the stands. For some reason I love putting things in vases all over the house - so I just had to get it. I also like the smell of eucalyptus - I've developed a habit of adding eucalyptus oil to water and spritzing it around lately to make the house smell good. Now I'll have the natural version. So here are my finds today, stay tuned for what becomes of them. Please forgive the terrible photos, as the good camera is traveling around the world with the husband for a couple of weeks.

Eucalyptus in the Master Bath

Cheddar Cauliflower

Yellow, Beefsteak and Grape Tomatoes

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vegetarian Sausage over Spaghetti Squash

There's nothing like a hot sausage on a cold day. Even if you're vegetarian. As a meat eater, I find that the sausage form of "fake" meat does the best imitation of the real thing. The fennel and spices make it taste very similar, although I'm not sure the texture will ever be perfect. I eat it because I enjoy it, but I don't expect it to replace pork. On the other hand, I disagree with the notion that spaghetti squash tastes anything like spaghetti. It tastes like squash - not pasta. Let's not call oranges apples here. Why can't we just accept healthy food for what it is? Isn't it deliciousness that counts? If you want spaghetti, eat spaghetti. If you like squash, maybe you'll like spaghetti squash. Why must we play mind-tricks to get ourselves to eat healthy? Healthy food can be delicious and satisfying if we set aside our routines, and just enjoy trying something new.

Sautéed Spaghetti Squash with Herbs

1 Small Spaghetti Squash, precooked and removed from skin

1/2 C red onion, sliced thin

1 large garlic clove, diced

1 tsp fresh Sage, chopped

1/2 tsp dried, or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp Olive oil, salt & pepper

To cook the squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp. Poke a few holes through the skin with a fork or skewer. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, cut side up, and add about 1/2 C water to the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before removing plastic wrap – the squash should be pliable and darker yellow. Remove flesh by scraping with the tines of a fork.

Sauté onions in olive oil and butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Sauté for another 3 minutes and add the sage for another 2 minutes. Stir in the squash and season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir to coat, cooking about 5 minutes, and add the basil and Parmesan.
Serve under sausages, such as Trader Joe's Italian Sausage-less Sausages.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coconut Lemongrass Curry with Butternut Squash


Last week I accidentally opened a can of coconut milk thinking that it was something else. So I've been plotting to use it for a few days. Simultaneously, my friend emailed me looking for creative ways to use some pumpkins she picked. With the coconut milk on my mind, I told her she should make a coconut pumpkin curry, and gave her a few suggestions how to do that. I've been meaning to use up more butternut squash this way, but just haven't had the time in the past week. Last night, after a long day in Westchester at a baby shower and commuting back to Brooklyn, I got home around 7:30pm. Just enough time to sit and catch up on 30 Rock, and then have dinner ready by our standard eating time of 9:00pm. Factor in time to research how to prep lemongrass, since I had never used it before, and finding my long-lost hand-scribbled recipe for the "perfect curry" which I've assembled and adjusted over time. I haven't made curry since we moved, and that was January! Well, things are about to change. My new creation blew my husband away. He swears it was better than restaurant-quality, and more than suitable to present to guests - including his family (we have little crossover in the foods we ALL like). Plus, the Jasmine rice and aromatic spices made our apartment smell unbelievably delicious.

Coconut Lemongrass Curry with Butternut Squash
(serves 4)
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter (*Vegetable or Canola oil for vegan*)
¼ C chopped Spanish Onion
1 Large clove garlic, minced
1 tspn ginger, minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
Top 1/3 of lemongrass stalk, scored with a knife and folded to bruise
2-1/2 C Butternut squash, peeled, chopped
1 Medium Carrot, peeled and chopped on the diagonal
½ C cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves

1 Can (13.5oz) Coconut Milk
¾ C water

Spices:
2 tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Coriander
½ tsp Cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg
1/8 tsp (or more) Cayenne, to taste
½ tsp Kosher salt
1 heaping Tbsp Yellow Curry Powder

Chopped Cilantro
Juice of 1 Lime
½ C Lightly Toasted Cashews (raw, unsalted)
Cooked Brown Jasmine rice (follow package directions, allow up to 1 hour for cooking)

Heat butter in medium saucepan. Sauté onions and garlic in butter 3-4 minutes over medium heat, then add ginger and lemongrass and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add squash, carrot, water and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add the spices. Add the lemongrass stalk – (this is not edible, just for flavoring). Taste for seasoning throughout cooking. Boil for about 10 minutes and add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until squash is cooked through, fork tender.

Before serving, squeeze half the lime juice into the curry and add about ½ the cashews. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, toasted cashews. Spoon over jasmine rice with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, or with a lime wedge on the side.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beet Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette


Poor, poor, unposted salad blog post. I have had this box of pre-cooked beets in my fridge for months, waiting for me to remember to buy the other ingredients that make a good beet salad. I can never remember to get the perfect nuts or cheese. I finally put it together last week, TWICE, but never got to post it. I've made this many different ways before, but I found a new dressing recipe that is sooooo good. The salad is simply: baby spinach, sliced cooked beets, toasted pistacios, and shaved fresh parmigiano cheese. The dressing I used was a Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette from foodnetwork.com.

Penne with Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce


Okay, so this one is not entirely original. But, I do feel super proud of myself for coming up with this meal when I thought we had nothing around to eat. Today was the first day back in the gym after a few weeks of sickness and a busy work schedule. That got me in the door around 8pm to shower and start dinner. So the plan for the butternut squash curry was definitely not happening today. I decided to make some whole wheat penne, and I came across this simple recipe on the Carnation site when I googled "penne ala vodka" - which surprise surprise - I actually don't make well. It's especially hard when you never have vodka on hand. I believe I've changed this base recipe enough to call it mine, mostly due to the fact that I had random things on hand. It came out really well, almost as good as real penne ala vodka. We went back for seconds, so it was a success.

Penne with Creamy Sundried Tomato Sauce

(serves 4)

1/4 box Barilla Penne Plus

1/2 can of evaporated milk (about 6oz from a 12oz can)
**do NOT use condensed milk
1/4 C chopped red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 C frozen peas
1/4 C sundried tomato in oil (chopped into strips if not already)
1 C Tomato sauce (canned, about 1-1/2 cans, low-sodium)

1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 C grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/4 C grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, black pepper, dried basil, crushed red pepper flakes


Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan. When tender, in about 3-4 minutes, remove from pan and set aside. Add evaporated milk to pan, over medium-low heat. Add cheeses, and stir until melted. Add back the onions and garlic, and the tomato sauce. Season with black pepper, red pepper and basil. Taste before adding much salt since pecorino can be quite salty. Continue to stir from time to time. Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot. About 3 minutes before the end of the cook time, add the sundried tomatoes. 1 minute before, add frozen peas. Drain the pot, and add the pasta back to it. Add the sauce to the pot and stir together, seasoning again if needed. Serve topped with with fresh basil or parsley.
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